Sunday, May 29, 2016

...My {Math} Life Is A Lie (2)

I can't even believe how great this book is (and I'm a math-y... not a read-y) Mathematical Mindsets.  I have easily spent over two hours of outside class time reading, highlighting, rereading, note taking, and side-researching everything the book talks about... and I haven't even gotten to the good stuff! All of the "which I write about in Chapter yada yada" that she has said so far.

Why has my whole life been a lie, you wonder?  Well, that is because "math education" or math in schools today (and in my day) is not actually what math is! Timed tests, repetitive procedures, rules and memorization, all of it... We've been forced to think that that is what math is, and it's not!  I'm here to tell you [or at least pass on from Jo] that we need to take back math.  As math teachers, elementary teachers, mathematicians... all of us.  We need to put the conceptual process back into math so kids, students, adults, anybody can explore math and realize that it is about more than just answering as fast as you can and using rote procedures.

Math is patterns!  I feel like most (if not all) math can relate back to patterns.  The book talks about how babies and infants (which I think are the same thing... no?) are obsessed with math and patterns.  I didn't even think about this!  So we just shove math at kids from the time they are born all the way through preschool and they love it.  They just manipulate, create, build, learn and conceptualize and then as soon as they get to kindergarten we say "Math is a test and you have to be the fastest or you suck at math."  Math trauma anyone?  Math anxiety anyone?

I don't know about you, but the school I taught at had a SCHOOL WIDE GOAL for timed tests.  Like hearing that the first time, made my heart hurt.  But now, with Jo B in my life, I literally want to die thinking about it.  #stopthetimedtests #mathisnotarace Another thing I heard all day long was "[the students] HAVE to know their facts first or they won't understand this"... the lie detector determined that that is ALSO a lie Jerry.  I know how you're feeling right now, breathe through it.  Jo B herself did not memorize any facts growing up and she went to become a famous mathematician and author.  This is crazy, right?

So HOW do we teach math facts then.  HOW do we teach math if we can't use the same rote methods that really haven't been working for years.  Number sense - of course!

What is number sense you might ask? Teaching kids to memorize numbers right? Wrong-o.  Teaching kids to be flexible with numbers, to PLAY with them, that's right I said PLAY with numbers... while learning.  It can happen people.  This website tells us that the five components of number sense are: number meaning, number relationships, number magnitude, operations involving numbers and referents for numbers, and referents for numbers and quantities.  Basically what you need to know about number sense is that it's the foundation for math and it helps kids make sense of math.

I bet if you talk to someone who specializes in ELA or who has seen a dynamic reading program they will tell you all about the fundamentals of phonics and how phonemes has revolutionized learning to read.  Well, guess what?  Number sense will do that same thing for math and your kids will LOVE it.  What it comes down to is that kids need to be able to learn numbers without structure, without rules, and without stress!

The other step towards freeing students of math anxiety by doing the REAL math is to do so much modeling our faces fall off.  And I don't mean stand up there and talk at the kids and show them method after method after method.  I mean put that pencil in their hand, that array on their desk, those chips or coins or blocks or whatever in front of them and let them do it THEIR way.  Then, you have 26 little modelers in the room who will completely engage their classmates by showing their thinking, their process, and their creativity.  Exploration is the answer, what was the question?


  1. Love it. Great review of an awesome book. And fun post, besides.

    C's: 5/5

  2. That was an awesome post and made me want to read the book! After reading the book that I read, which seems to have the same opinion on how math is being taught these days, I really am interested to learn more! We should switch :)